Although her own participation was pretty much limited to playing stationary guard in high school, SI picture researcher Eileen Miller has never strayed far from the basketball court. And Miller, who, among other assignments as our pro basketball specialist, gathered the historical shots for this week's story on Laker coach Pat Riley (page 82), keeps running into people she has met through the sport.
One person Miller contacted for the Riley story was Marge Hearn, wife of Laker announcer Chick Hearn. Miller knew her, having assembled the pictures for an SI article on Chick (April 9, 1984). In searching for pictures of Riley, Miller relied on the photo collections of the coach's sister, Mary Kay, mother, Mary, and wife, Chris. "I also found a great photo of Pat's father by calling The Sporting News," Eileen says. "We only knew that Lee Riley had been a pro baseball player."
When Eileen was growing up her father, Leonard, a former lieutenant in the U.S. Navy, and mother, also Eileen, would take Eileen and her sister, Mary, from their West Nyack, N.Y. home to the Army Field House on the West Point campus to watch basketball games. "My dad wanted to see anybody beat Army," she says with a laugh. Eileen caught Bobby Knight's act when he was coach at Army and saw some excellent collegiate players in the Field House, including Bill Bradley, Happy Hairston and Mike Silliman.
A graduate of Manhattanville College, Miller broke into photography as a fine-arts major in college and professionally at the Westchester Rockland Newspapers. She got her first big break in 1976 when Bradley asked her to shoot a book promotion tour in the New York City area. This year, when Miller helped set up a photo session in Bradley's offices for a story by Frank Deford (SI, Aug. 5), the New Jersey senator chided her, "Don't wait another 10 years to say hello." Miller also worked as a free-lancer for the New Jersey Nets and in the photo departments of Inside Sports, Sport and the Associated Press. She shot stills for NBC at the NCAA Final Four in 1979 and 1981. Miller is married to Frank Kelly, the TV sports columnist for the New York Daily News. "We met at a party, and I told my mom I met this nice guy who I'll probably never see again," Eileen says. But they met again at another party—"pure chance," says Frank, who arranged the meeting through one of Eileen's cousins—and were married in 1974.
Eileen joined us two years ago. Her first project—tracking down the six basketball-playing Jones brothers (SI, Oct. 17, 1983)—took eight weeks. In anticipation of this year's NBA lottery, she had uniforms from all seven eligible teams on hand so that we could pose the league's No. 1 pick in the right one. Result: the May 20, 1985 Patrick Ewing cover.
But it's not all work and no play. Marge Hearn has asked Eileen to contribute recipes to The World Championship Lakers Are Cookin'. That should be a piece of cake.